Once Upon a Time

There was a farmer.  This farmer had a very large family, an enormous farm, and was very prosperous.  As his sons grew and married, they built houses and began farming the nearby land that the father had never farmed.  Neighbors came on hard times.  This saddened the farmer.  He wanted to help.  So, he asked his sons to bring him some of their profits in order to share with their impoverished neighbors.

Each year, the neighbors needed more–and there were more neighbors. The sons weren’t confident in their ability to keep giving at an increasing rate.  The father insisted.  Out of love and honor for their father, they conceded.  Their profit margins were less, but it was ok.  Their families were fed, their children clothed and educated, and they could meet their obligations.

Some of the neighbors complained that the farmer’s sons were overusing resources.  The farmer began paying some of his sons not to grow their crops.  Some of those sons liked it–others not so much.  Over time, the money the sons gave weren’t enough and they said, “No more.  If we give more, our families will suffer.”  So the father hired men to enforce the new contribution amounts.  He hauled his own sons off to jail when they couldn’t give the money required. He sent those same men’s sons to fight in feuds between some of those neighbors while demanding more money to pay for the fight.

Even then, there just wasn’t enough money to give to everyone who needed it–and it was a need.  By this time, houses were falling apart.  Children were going without the education they needed.  The food costs locally were outrageous because of the amount of food given away to those who didn’t work to earn it.  The farmer borrowed.  And borrowed.  The sons panicked.  Begging their father to think about what he was doing.  They couldn’t grow more–the father wouldn’t let them.  They couldn’t do with less–their children would starve.  The farmer was giving away and borrowing more than the family could ever recover from.  The grandsons were ready to revolt, but they loved their grandfather.  They didn’t want to dishonor their family.

But what is a man to do when he is stripped of the fruits of his labors, thrown into debt that he can never hope to pay, and watches his entire extended family give away everything as the debtors come calling for payment?

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Thought of the Day

I just had a thought.  Don’t worry.  Don’t panic.  I do that from time to time.  As scary as it might seem, it’s usually harmless.  Usually.

Today’s thought?  Well, it started when I saw a blog post somewhere that seemed blatantly designed as a slap in someone’s face.  I don’t know the blogger at all and I don’t know who on earth they might have been trying to “correct” or “vent” about, but the soapbox styled blog post just FELT like a backhanded attack–a passive-aggressive way of letting someone know what they really thought without confronting the person directly.

My guess is that the blogger was doing no such thing.  I mean, I post a lot of soapbox-styled rants on here.  I do it because it’s a topic I feel passionate about at the moment, but I don’t necessarily feel like debating it on a message board.  I just want to get my thoughts “on paper.”  It helps me think.  And, because I have this blog where I can ramble about things that matter to me, well… I share it.  For those who get a kick out of the ridiculous things I say from time to time or for those who are as ridiculous as I am and want to feel like they’re a little less crazy than some people might think.  😉

But, this time I wondered.  Does it happen?  Are blog posts a way that people can attack another person, stealthily, rather than deal with a real issue with a real person?  I bet it does.  I bet it happens much more than I realize.

I’m tempted to scroll through past posts of mine to see how many were rants about things inspired by something someone said that I agreed or disagreed with and how many were a way to blast someone for something I didn’t want to address with them?

Tempted… but not quite ready for that answer.  Not today.  Maybe tomorrow.

Shock and Disgust~

I see it happen all around me.  Who am I kidding?  I see it happen within me.  A new book, movie, TV show, lyrics to a popular song, slang… you name it.  Something comes on the scene and the church gets up in arms about it.

“How dare they trivialize abortion in that song!”

Whatever the case, you soon see Facebook statuses flow with disgust for the latest assault on Christian values.  Heck, we get sick of assaults on common decency!  Message board posts abound with titles like, “Have you seen/heard this thing?”  The threads, emails, statuses, and tweets all decry the attack on purity, marriage, parents’ rights, with things like infidelity, profanity, or “children’s rights” (you know, the rights to behave in any way that is legal or not and make the parents responsible for it but limit their ability to limit the behavior!).  Look, I agree with those things.  I don’t like them any more than the next person, and frankly, I’m just as likely to pick up the banner cry and carry it myself.  I’m not about to lower the boom on anyone else here before I get cracked over the head first, but yes there is a huge pregnant “but” coming.

Why are we so quick to rant and rail ant the world behaving like the lost, Christ-needing people they are instead of quick to rant against our own problems?  Why are we willing to gossip about ugly TV shows instead of attacking the ugly gossip in our own hearts?  Why are we willing to fight against pornography when we aren’t willing to fight our own lusts?  Why are we so quick to denounce foul language and sensuality on the big screen but ignore the foul things we think and say about others.  Slander?  It’s forbidden too, folks!

I know we want to clean up the world in which we live.  We’re sick of getting splashed on by tires throwing the muck of it against us.  We want to take the world for Christ!  PRAISE THE LORD!  Let’s do it!  But um, didn’t Jesus say something about dealing with the planks in our own eyes before we start trying to dig out the specks in others’?

Am I the only one who wonders what the effect would be if Christians were “…Christians, Christians only
Serving Jesus, our only plea
If we’d all give up to the precious Son…” (Keith Lancaster)

I just can’t help but wonder what would happen if we stopped pointing accusing fingers at the world, shocked at the lostness of it all, and started pointing it inward at ourselves, shocked at our own sinfulness–eager to change ourselves.

 

Real or Fraud

Hypocrisy is one of the nastiest words thrown at Christians. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most accurate as well.  Add to that, the seeming inability to admit to said hypocrisy and you get a double whammy with it. We’re not just hypocrites with strangers, non-Christians, or even in the church.  No, we’re hypocrites even within our own hearts.  It’s disgusting.

Picture a room–a semi-circle of chairs with anxious-looking people, unwilling to meet one anothers’ eyes.  One woman squirms before standing and shuffling to the front of the room.  Her eyes seem to look anywhere but at the eyes now staring at her.  She frowns and wills herself to meet the gaze of the others.  Clearing her throat, she speaks.

“Hello, I’m Chautona.  I’m a hypocrite.  It’s been…” she glances at her watch, “fourteen seconds since I last failed in my attempt to eradicate hypocrisy from my life.”

You think fourteen seconds was harsh?  Let me tell you something.  Chautona expects others to admit to their failings instead of trying to justify them.  She was doing it in her heart.  That’s just as wrong as verbally.  Chautona also expects people to look her in the eye when speaking to her– at least some of the time.  She didn’t want to and tried not to.  Chautona is a hypocrite.  Yes, I am a hypocrite.  I hate it.  I feel like the Apostle Paul.  I don’t do what I should do, I do what I don’t want to do, wretched woman that I am…

But I’m not wretched.  Not really.  I’ve got Jesus.  I’m cleansed.  That double-standard I hold that I don’t even realize yet– it’s already been nailed to the cross and forgiven.  That’s so amazing!  He washed me clean.  CLEAN.  It’s done.

None of this is news to anyone though, is it?  I mean, the funny thing is–ironic really– is that I’ve never pretended that I wasn’t a hypocrite!  How stupid is that?  But… it’s true.  Sad and sorry, but it’s true.

See, I’m a fraud.  Hurts to admit it by the way.

The alternative, I’ve been told, is to be “real.”  I agree.  Let’s be real.  I can go there.  Isn’t that what I’m doing here?  Being real?  Confessing my faults “one to another” as James tells me to?

Wanna know what real isn’t to me?  Real isn’t making others endure my sinfulness.  Real isn’t saying, “I know that my smoking puts your life at risk.  Tuff.  It’s who I am.  I’m being real.”  Real is when I say, “I care enough about my friend that I’ll shower, change my clothes, and walk down the street to visit you so that I don’t put your health at risk.  That’s not fake.  That’s not hypocrisy!  That’s REAL love for you.

If I visit a friend whose husband finds purple tops too provocative to endure, I’m not going to wear a purple top– even if I wear one every other day of the week.  I’m not going to do it because it’s courteous.  It’s loving my brother in Christ!  For heaven’s sake!  We have enough that we’re hypocrites about without letting our Christian liberty trample our brothers and sisters in the process.  I can drink alcohol with a 100% clear conscience.  I “never” do (can probably count on one hand since I moved out of my parents house).  Why don’t I?  Well, lots of reasons, concern that I might learn to like it too much being a major one, but the biggest is that my husband doesn’t like it.  He doesn’t like it in the house.  He doesn’t like it near his spouse.  😉  I love him.  He knows I don’t have a problem with drinking it–heck!  He doesn’t have a problem with anyone drinking it.  He just doesn’t like the stuff and I love him.  I’m not going to drink it if it is something he’d rather wasn’t here!  So, we’ve got our medicinal bottle of Jack Daniels, and I do not pour it in my Coke.  That doesn’t make me a hypocrite.  That doesn’t mean I’m not real.  That means I AM REAL.  I am REALly loving my husband by keeping the alcohol consumption out of here.

Since when did our being “real” mean that we have to make the rest of the world–our Christian brothers and sisters–have to endure things that violate their conscience.  Why is it that one brother can feel comfortable watching a violent movie and because he does, his friend with a more tender conscience can either suck it up and deal with it or go home?  Why must it be THAT movie when the friend is around.  Is a movie really more important than a man Jesus died for? So what if the brother is wrong and it’s ok to watch this movie.  Let’s assume it’s like meat offered to idols.  Paul said DON’T SERVE IT TO THE WEAKER BROTHER.  Paul didn’t say tell the weaker brother to eat up, don’t look, or go away.

We’re all frauds–hypocrites.  We are.  It’s not just in the church.  The world is full of frauds both Christians and non-Christians.  But if our “real” selves trample our brothers and sisters in Christ with our “reality,” what does that say about what we’re doing to people that Jesus was tortured, beaten, and murdered for?  It’s still “real” if you yield to serve a brother in Christ.  You don’t have to lie and pretend you don’t usually eat that meat offered to idols, drink that beer, listen to that musician, watch that movie, use that language, whatever the issue is.  You don’t have to lie!  You can be real and still show love for the person who isn’t comfortable with those things.  That’s real too.  It’s real and RIGHT.

The fraud is the person who says that they serve and follow Christ and hold onto their own rights so tight that they trample people that Jesus said to “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;”  (Rom 12:10).

Kill THAT hypocrisy.  I dare you.

Gimme That Old-Time Religion

Hated that hymn as a kid and I still do.  It’s just yeah.  Not my thing.  However, I am a fan of religion.  As a Christian, I kind of have to be.  Yeah, I know it’s all the rage for Christians to decry religion and show their spiritual superiority by claiming that THEY have a relationship– not something so weak and worthless as “religion”– but I am not of that camp.  See, I believe that the Word of God is alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword piercing to the joints and the marrow.  I believe that every word in the Word is God-breathed and essential for me in my relationship with the Lord.

That being the case, how can I throw out scripture itself in order to be “spiritually correct” this year?  James 1:27 specifically says:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Sorry, I don’t think that gives me leave to denigrate what God has clearly required of us.  We are to be compassionate to widows and orphans and we are to keep the taint of the world off of us.  This is religion and we are to be religious in our application of it.

Why do brothers and sisters in Christ decry the principle rather than the misuse of it.  Religion is not the problem.  Our misuse and idolization of it can be, definitely.  So reject that!  Rejecting the principles of Scripture is just as wrong as the misuse of them is.

Out with the Old

In with the new.  Year that is.  It’s ridiculous how much stuff I’ve got going for this year and yet really, I’ve got plans that are a bit underwhelming too.  I really tried not to overdo it and as a result, I feel like I have much too much and much too little all at the same time.

1.  Finish the card sketches.

Going to do this by doing the “Friday Five” where I use one stamp/stamp set five totally different ways with 5 different sketches to discover if I want to keep it or not.

2.  Pay off all debt again.

Hospital bills first.
Dental bills next

3.  Hit 500 mile mark in walking

Walking during the day again while the weather permits.  Even if I hate it.

4.  Do the 52 weeks photo thing again– maybe life won’t mess it up this time.  Still gotta catch up.

Hmmmmaybe I need to do the pictures on Sunday nights.  I usually have nothing on my plate those nights.

5.  Make new shades for the living room.

January– definitely

6.  Finish Aggie

By end of February

7.  Finish Mismatched

By end of March

8.  Finish Everard

By end of May

9.  Publish Adric

By April

10.  365 days of creativity.

Make a list of things I want to do.  Yeah.

11.  Plant Zucchini, crookneck, and tomatoes.

In March I think.

* Purchase 6 railroad ties.  Cut 2 in half.  Finished by March for planting.

12.  Develop a 3 day shopping habit.

Start on Tuesday  Shop for Tuesday night, Wednesday, and Thursday.

13.  Make Roman Shade for our other window in our room.

January Project

14.  Remove 12 totes of “stuff” from storage.

Remove one per month.

15.  Record all the albums in my closet on the usb turntable.

February

16.  Finally go on that murder train ride?

Look up when the WWII one is and buy tickets.

17.  Plan Christmas stockings better.  Shop

Have planned and purchased by Dec 1.  (one person per month?  I think so.)

18.  Make family calendar board.  (Pick yourselves up off the ground)

January

19.  Get Ethan reading more.

Daily reading with me.  Twice per day.

20.  Biweekly game night

Non-flex Thursdays.

21.  Biweekly old movie night

Flex Saturdays?

22.  Meet my self-challenge of dual books in Nano

Plan the books.

23.  Back to consistent blogging

Schedule blog posts a week in advance.

24.  Tags for Christmas presents done before December

One tag per week would do it… hmmm

25.  Find a new style top that is comfortable, different from what I usually wear, and is flattering (insert laugh here)

No idea how to do this.  I think I have to GO shopping… which means out of town.  UGH.

26.  Haircut every 10 weeks whether I need it or not.  Snort.

Make a recurring appointment with Beth.  January.

27.  Modesto.

1.  Pay for booth.
2.  Order banner.
3.  Make sure tax thing is all I need.
4.  Reserve room.
5.  Order books.
6.  Save 150 per month to cover expenses.

28.  Twelve new recipes that make it into the rotation so we can retire a few overused ones.

First Flex Friday of the month.

29.  At least one sewn project per month outside of Lorna’s wardrobe.

Plan the months.

January-
February-
March-
April-
May-
June-
July-
August-
September-
October-
November-
December-

30.  At least PLAN OUT the HK Craft Queen project.

February

31.  Try to set up and organize the Doll Trunk Swap.

January

32.  Do something fun for Kevin’s birthday– last year in his 40’s!!!

Plan by June 1.

33.  Camp WriMo!

August?

34.  Plan birthday presents a full month in advance at the least.

January- Kaylene
February- Ethan
March- Challice
April- Braelyn
May- Jenna & Kevin
June- no one
July- Friend
August- Lorna
September- Andra & Euphemia
October- Nolan & Stephen
November- Morgann

35.  Give T-tapp a full 2 weeks shot to see if I want to continue.

June or July

36.  Professor Horner’s Bible Reading System.
*Using http://www.youversion.com/reading-plans/professor-horners-bible-reading-system/1 *

I have until the end of January to make changes and then it’s set.

Consider mom and dad’s memory book–  If so, what goes?  Shirt?  Train ride?
Oh, and really– this year I should do the whole “submit Plotting Santa to agents” thing.

Giving

The day before Thanksgiving, something happened.  Well, a lot of things happened, but one in particular.  Early in the day I was at Stater Brothers with my son.  We were doing the “Get Teresa a turkey” thing, and filling up on the last things we needed to get us through Thursday.  Minor things like milk, yeast, etc.  The lines weren’t horrible, but they were there.  The woman ahead of me started putting her items on the belt while the people ahead of her paid.  She seemed nervous and caught my eye.  “I left my purse at home.  I sure hope I have enough cash.  Prioritize, right?”  She was laughing, casual, but I almost had a feeling that it wasn’t quite true.  She watched the register tally rise as I passed her my cash.  I only had eight dollars myself (I’m a debit card kind of gal), but it looked like it’d be enough to make up the difference.  She seemed to demur and then finally accepted it.  She offered me the change, but I told her to keep it.  All was well.

But that’s not what happened.  Not what I mean anyway.

Later I was back to get something else (why is it there is always so much more to get done!!!) and a couple waited in line ahead of us.  The man between them and me was in an electric chair/scooter thing.  It seemed as if time was dragging.  We all wondered what was going on, but after a while, it became obvious.  The young woman saw someone she knew and said, “My mom sent us to the store with 100 dollars in gift cards and a 200 dollar list!”  I was dumbfounded.  What a frustration.  I saw her husband talking to someone on a phone and then he hurried outside.  A CSM came over, apparently to void the transaction.  All items were put in a cart for when the rest of the money arrived.  I sat there with my hand on my debit card.  I could afford it.  I could.  Why was I so hesitant?  It’s not like me.

As I left the store, I saw her on the phone pacing up and down, glancing around for a car– obviously waiting for someone to bring the rest of the money.  I felt bad.   Why had I been so selfish?  It felt unsettling, and yet even then I wouldn’t go in and take care of it.  I opened the car, sat in my seat, and stared at the steering wheel.  Why?

Then I realized why and I didn’t like it.  I had a laptop to replace.  I didn’t like spending more money when that big chunk was coming out.  Of course, the next day I didn’t think twice about spending half the amount on a Christmas tree, decorations, or a Christmas present.  Combined, those came to almost double what it would have cost me.

It was a kind of selfishness I am not happy to discover I have.  I like to help.  I’m a fixer.  I want to fix things.  It would have felt wonderful to take that frustration and burden off those people, but the holidays are here and I have learned that I am selfish.  Sigh.  I’m willing to serve others if it doesn’t interfere with MY plans.  That is just pathetic.

However, it’s a good thing.  I mean, isn’t that how we grow?  Isn’t it how we learn to die to self?  Had this not happened, I’d never have learned it.  I hope that if something like this happens again, I’ll take that pause and realize that we can cut a few things and cover it.  I kept justifying my actions because it really seemed as if the money was coming– they had it.  You know what, that wasn’t the point.  The point was I could have met a need but my wants overrode that.  That is what bothers me.

I know I can’t meet every need out there.  I know that there are times I have to let others handle it.  That isn’t what is bothering me.  Why I didn’t do it is what bothers me.  The selfishness behind my motives is the problem.  I was willing to help when the problem didn’t “hurt” but when it meant I might have to limit our spending, suddenly I was a little less willing to open the wallet.

I don’t know.  Maybe I’m overreacting, but I don’t think so.  It’s been bugging me for days.  I thought about doing something for someone else, but you know what?  That isn’t the point for me.  I think the real problem is that I  felt like I should do something and I didn’t do it.  I feel like I failed the Lord somehow.  Thank God for His forgiveness if I did.  And, tomorrow is fresh with no mistakes in it.  Yet.

Excitement

It happened.  Today was the day.  The genesis of the holiday season!

It all starts with turkeys.  Every year I buy a turkey a day for a friend.  So, today I decided to go early so she could pick it up when she picks up her son from Driver’s Ed.  That’s tradition one.  I stepped out of the car and heard one of my favorite sounds of the year.

Bell.

That obnoxious clack, clack, ding, ding, ring-a-ling of the Salvation Army Bell ringer.

The holiday season has arrived.

Oh, and I forgot to go out that side of the door so I could drop in my first change.  I feel gypped.  Oh, well.  An excuse to go again later, no?

Full Circle

Now the day is over, night is drawing nigh…

You know, I don’t want to sound morbid, but I’m realizing every day how much of my life has already been spent. It is hard to remember that I don’t have forever to do the things I want to do or go the places I want to see. I don’t have forever to see my family that I miss so dearly or to share my heart for and to my children. There are a finite number of days in our life, and when the Psalmist tells us that we have seventy to eighty years, he isn’t joking. that’s around the average lifespan!

Some ways that I see the “drawing nigh” are very telling for me. For example: health. You know what? I don’t bounce back like I used to. I’m watching my husband recuperate from back surgery and am just amazed that it really takes six weeks to heal enough to be able to resume some of your normal activities. That’s one quarter of the time it takes to heal completely. That stuns me.

Whatever illness I caught in the hospital is still attacking me. I still feel weak, achy, and as if I have a fever. I don’t, but it feels as if I do. My joints are screaming for relief. Oh, and my asthma is about to let me have it. The fact that I have asthma at all is incredible. Three weeks of illness? Really? As a younger person, that would have been unbelievable.

It really drives home the point that my life is not unchanging. I am getting older.  My body will fail me. I need to keep it in the best condition I can in order to make this second half of my life all it could be.

I’m also learning not to let things bother me that once would have. I finally can see that I have a tight leash on my inner thunder puppy. What I can see– and I never thought would be true– is that I have to be careful not to allow myself to become desensitized to mediocrity or even wrong as I “grow up.” I don’t believe that I am ever going to become so laissez faire that I won’t care about what is wrong.

It has been so long since I’ve seen my parents. I don’t even like to think about how long it’s been. Now that Kevin has had this surgery, I realize that we’ll never take a long road trip again. No more half-country treks across the country. We’ll need to fly. I need to plan for trips to see my parents alone or bringing a child or two and not expect it to be a full family again. That means a whole different kinds of budgeting. It’s now a priority of a different nature. If I won’t be living forever, neither will my parents. I don’t want that regret in my life.

I look around me and my life has a lot of “fat” to trim. If I want to finish my life strong, I need (haven’t I said this before? Why don’t I ever learn?) to live it strong– to its fullest. I need every minute to count. Look, I don’t want to strip the whimsy and relaxation times of life, but do I really need to play 50 games of spider solitaire every day? I don’t think so. Ok, so it’s not that many, but um… the hours add up. I want to enjoy a good game now and then, but I want other things– better things– to be what I have to show for it.

I am at peace and almost have zero stress when my home is in order. Why then, do I allow myself to let it get cluttered or disheveled? It seems a bit counter-intuitive to talk about living life– taking it for everything it has– and cleaning the house more, but it is what I need in order to do those things. It is what I need in order to live that fullest life. I need that.

I’ve been playing with schedules for the past week. It’s been a long time since I’ve operated on a schedule. I may begin again. Just looking at what I think I need to get done really does make me see what I want to do– what I want to accomplish. Once again, my life may need to become a little more tightly organized in order to give me freedom. In the past, I’ve enjoyed that organized freedom and at other times it has strangled me. I think I’m ready again. I’ll just have to see I think.

Homonyms-

They’re interesting words, homonyms.  I’ve always been a fan of them– and the word.  It ranks up there with anthropomorphism, onomatopoeia, and spoonerisms.  I’m also amazed at how many ways seemingly unrelated words both sound alike and really are related.
Patience.  It’s a word that we’ve heard in many many settings.  “You try my patience.”  “I need to pray for patience.”  “Patience is a virtue.”  It implies waiting, self-control, a deep breath.  Its homonym, patients is a common one that people enjoy mixing for a fun play on words.  Patients are patient.  Patience.  Patients.  Sickness produces both– it has to.  When you are ill, you must allow it to run its course.  Impatience will produce patients in a place that requires even more patience– a hospital.

Of course, I don’t know what that has to do with anything.  I just wanted to write something cool about homonyms because it’s fun.

Regency England is a maze that, well, speaking of homonymish words, amazes me.  I’m learning about how to address someone, how to introduce them, who outranks who and why.  I’m learning what happens when a woman with a title in her own right marries a man with a lower title.  It’s not as simple as it sounds.  Let’s just say the rules of primogeniture in England is a little complicated for those of us who do not have to worry about anything like that.

I’m fascinated by things like what they ate for breakfast (you know the muffin/croissant and coffee crowd… they’re channeling their inner Regency Brit.  Trust me.) or what kinds of behavior was appropriate and what wasn’t.  It was perfectly acceptable to take a very private drive in a gig without a chaperone, but to visit the sick child of a tenant?  Not happenin’.  Shoes were both sensible and pretty and utterly ridiculous.  The Regency woman wore the equivalent of yoga pants and a bleach-stained t-shirt around the house as a “morning gown.”  You’d never leave the house in such a thing and a previously fine dress might be put to death as a “morning dress” by simply removing the trimming to use on another dress.

Dressing while interesting, isn’t the biggest deal.  I find it fascinating how forthright they were about seeking a mate while never expressly stating it.  I mean, they all converge on London for several weeks of the year for one very long, huge progressive party.  From place, to place, to place they converge, dance, flirt, are introduced through very elaborate rules of etiquette, and all for the purpose of finding a husband or a wife.   No one pretends that this isn’t true.  They don’t talk about it.  I mean, they don’t usher a guest into the living room and say, “So how goes the wife hunt?” to which the man answers, “Well, I’ve checked a few dozen off my list, but there are still several who look promising.  What do you think of Miss Nottooshabby?”  You certainly wouldn’t hear a woman say to a man, “Well, I thought it might work with Lord Snidely, but then he picked his nose at the table and that was it.  Instead, you’d probably hear a woman ask her male guest, “And how are you enjoying the delights of the season?” to which he’d answer, “I enjoy hospitality in many houses and there are a few in particular that are very congenial.”  The young woman might say, “Well, despite Papa’s assurance that there are dashing young men who enjoy these balls, I have been subjected to enough gauche manners to ensure I am very particular in whose company I spend time.”

And, after the whirlwind of gaiety in London, with it’s bad air and dirty streets, people depart for the country to enjoy house parties, hunting parties, to have a chance to relax and enjoy the fresh air and countryside.  In a sense, it reminds me a bit of New York at the turn of the nineteenth century.  Families with means would leave the oppressive heat of the city and escape to the Adirondacks or similar places in the mountains for a refreshing summer.  Some things never change.

Oh, my… and English.  What a homonym in that word.  Oh, I know.  It isn’t a homonym– not technically– but in how it is used, it feels like one.  English is a nationality.  It is a language.  It is also a dialect.  And, if that’s not enough, it is a culture.  The English speak the Queen’s English rather than our English and when you have to write it, it’s all so very English.  See?

Now, pardon me, but I need to get Charlotte to the cottages and Jasper off to the archery lesson.  It’s going to be a fun day at Eversley Hall.

Balance

It’s a word that has such good connotations.  Balance the budget, balance… I can’t even think of them now when several seconds ago a dozen phrases flitted through my mind.  Well, today needed balance that I couldn’t find.  It’s just one of those things sometimes.  My question is, why?  Why is balance such a tight walk sometimes?
My nerves have been raw today.  Hyper-raw.  After two weeks of being physically spent and fighting some kind of undefined illness, I am worn out.  I don’t have anything left.  If someone spoke, I snapped.  If someone snapped, I blew up.  Irritation felt like a personal attack.  The funny thing is my husband thought I was mad at him.  I wasn’t.  I was just fighting to keep him from getting mad at me and my snarkiness.  Strange how that works sometimes, isn’t it?
So, I’ve spent all day fighting myself.  My kids are on eggshells.  I’m not proud of it.  I’m worn out, frustrated.  I need strength.
I have it, you know.  I have strength.  Philippians 4:13 promises me that Jesus Christ strengthens me.  Ok, I know, it says that He strengthened Paul, but I get the feeling that the implication was for all of us.  So, there should be no surprise that I can do this… this self-control and being the person I need to be… through Jesus.  He’ll do this.
There’s no excuse for making the people around me miserable because I am out of sorts.  I never allow it in my kids, why is it ok for me?
I need to find the balance in not stuffing down the problems I’m fighting and not dragging everyone around me into them.  It isn’t right.  I wouldn’t want others to do that to me, and I certainly don’t want to do it to others.  The old “Misery loves company?”  Well, I don’t.  It’s bad enough that I am being a nasty person in my mind– letting it spew into my interactions with others is inexcusable.
We claim we love people.  We claim that we care about what is best for them.  Then, when we are unsettled or ugly, we drive others away.  Why do we think this is acceptable behavior?  What?  We don’t?  Then why on earth are we behaving unacceptably– deliberately!  That’s insanity.
So, my hope is that tomorrow I will do better.  I don’t care why I do better.  If I am more at rest in Jesus, that’s preferable.  If I am more rested physically?  Ok.  I’m good with that.  If I feel better and not as if I’ve been sent through a wringer, that’ll be just dandy.  As long as it isn’t sinful, I really don’t care HOW or WHY I do better.  I just want tomorrow to close with the feeling that I didn’t alienate the people I love with my lousy attitude and rotten behavior.

Lessons in Thanksgiving-

In the time I’ve spent here in Lancaster, I’ve learned quite a few things.  I now know more about the spine than I ever imagined knowing– or wanted to know.  I know about surgery, recovery, anesthesia, and how to both manage a patient and a nurse.  Let’s just say it has been an education.  However, many of the most important things I’ve learned weren’t the things I would have expected.
I’ve learned gratitude for things I know I usually take for granted.  My husband’s job would definitely be one.  He has a good job, enjoys his work, and that job has quite a few benefits.  His employer, the Department of Defense, provides a good salary, affordable health insurance, and plenty of vacation leave and sick leave (which can accrue over time).  Thanks to this, he has about 60 work days of “sick leave” and even after taking four weeks of vacation, he still has quite a few more weeks of that left too.  Gotta love “use or lose.”
For many people, a husband out of work for six to twelve weeks would be a financial disaster.  We’re not going to have a month vacation with Kevin this Christmas, but who cares?  He’ll be able to walk and sit again.  This is much more important.
I’m also thankful for his salary.  This hospital visit has been horribly expensive– and we haven’t gotten a single bill yet.  I had to drive down here, get a hotel room, and I have to eat every day.  I’m here for much longer than I expected– guess who had to buy clothes to keep me clean and covered?  And, thanks to that wonderful provision of the Lord we like to call “a paycheck,” I could even afford to spend a little extra money to buy a few things to keep me occupied and a few books (at extortionist prices) to keep him from going stir crazy.  You know, it’s going to be tight for a few weeks– maybe months.  We’re going to have bills– lots of bills.  I spent several hundred dollars in hotel bills, food, and in stores.  I have it.  That is a really good thing to know– I have it.  It’ll be tight, but we won’t be wondering where our next meal came from or if we can afford to pay the mortgage.  God is so very good.
I’m learning to appreciate the sacrifices other people make to become surgeons and nurses.  Most doctors graduate with the equivalent of a mortgage before they ever take their first patient.  Now, I’m sure neurosurgeons are among those doctors that really do make a good salary, considering the malpractice insurance they must have to carry, it’s a good thing.
My natural dislike of the medical establishment isn’t gone… but I have more sympathy for the people in it.  Nurses have quite the thankless job.  Kevin’s nurses almost don’t stop moving.  They’re in our room, giving him a pain pill, out the door, back in to get his water, go get him water, back in the door.  Oh, it’s time to check the blood pressure.  Oops, forgot to empty your urinal, be right back!  They write down every single thing they and/or Kevin does.  They do it all with a pleasant attitude and without growing impatient.  Thus far, I’ve only seen one exception.  I was quite annoyed with his recovery nurse yesterday when the hospital volunteer took me back to the recovery room.  The doctor said to take me back, so she did.  We arrived and Kevin’s nurse just about bit off the poor elderly woman’s head.  I was livid.  No, it wasn’t because she wanted me out of there.  I got that.  She was in the middle of trying to get Kevin a new IV, Kevin wasn’t doing well, and there isn’t much room in there for another person.  I totally understood that.  I keep reminding myself that the woman was under a lot of pressure and she was protecting her patient–my husband.  However, her snippy “Call the nurse next time” response to the Volunteer explaining that the Doctor said I should go back was unprofessional.  Let’s face it, if a doctor and a nurse give anyone conflicting advice, the natural response is going to be to listen to the doctor.  Had she not had a nasty look on her face, been rude in her barking at the poor woman who donates her time to be the liaison between the family and the surgery staff, and just said, “If you’d call next time and make sure we’re ready for the family, I’d appreciate it.”  It wouldn’t have taken much extra time but it would have shown consideration for the woman who saves this gal many trips back and forth every day.
However, aside from that unfortunate experience, I really liked that nurse.  She was great at advocating for Kevin, helping him, and even having someone watch over him while she did a few other things.  I’ve liked most of the nurses.  It’s been a good thing.  Considering my negative experiences with nurses in the past, this has been a wonderful thing for me.  I’ve learned gratitude for people I used to avoid.  I’m thankful for that as well.

Waiting…

There’s a new level of trust in waiting.  It’s easy to say “The Lord will take care of me” or “I will trust,” but then the reality hits.  You have to wait and in waiting you learn just how much faith and trust you really have.
I’m a doer.  When someone is in trouble–sick, struggling financially, lonely, hurting– I want to fix.  I want to research the illness, drop off a check, make them laugh, and let them know I care.  When they ask for prayer, I ask if they need me to run get them a book or do their grocery shopping.  Oh, I pray.  Of course, I pray.    However, my first response is to do– get going and do.
When you’re waiting, you can’t do.  While waiting, you experience a whole new world– being still and knowing just who God is and that He knows exactly what is happening and what we need.
Right now, I’m waiting.  After weeks of sitting on the couch, editing a book, and the phone ringing– Kevin in the bedroom calling for a banana, applesauce, ice pack, heating pad– giving me something to do, I have to wait.  All around me, waiters wait.  A mother waits to be allowed into recovery to see her son.  He just got out of surgery.  He’s been in surgery most of the night.  That must be a pretty serious surgery.  She looked exhausted, so I didn’t speak to her, but we have an unspoken connection.  We’re waiters.  An elderly man is waiting for a friend.  He’s nervous.  You can see it in the way he clenches his hands when he speaks.  Every time I think I’ll say something to him, he gets up and hurries out of the room.  I don’t think he’s very comfortable with waiting either.  I suspect he’s another doer.  The nurse just called him to go back to see his friend, Carl.  The relief– his wait is over.
Everyone waits differently.  The woman next to me is reading.  Surrounded by bags, she’s lost in a world provided by Debbie Macomber.  Diagonally from me, a woman waits– sleeping.  It’s a different kind of escape, isn’t it?  One disappears into another “reality” while one slips out of this one until she hears the words she wants to hear– her name and that of the person she’s with.  There’s a row of TV watchers.  NASCAR or something like that is on.  Some kind of car racing anyway.  They seem mesmerized.  Truly interested, or escaping the reality of the wait?
One man reads a paper, two women talk, and another woman both reads and snoozes.  She’s a bit ADD in her waiting.  😉
Every time a nurse appears at the door, everyone’s eyes turn expectantly.  Even those sleeping instinctively know that someone is there.  Their eyes open… hopeful.  A name is called and all but one go back to their own little worlds.  They wait.  We wait.  I wait.
In waiting, I have to take a deep breath and surrender.  I can’t fix this.  I can’t do the surgery, I can’t control the environment, I can’t make sure they take good care of my husband.  I can’t hover over the surgeon and tell him to be careful when he nears Kevin’s spine.  I have to have faith that the Lord is guiding those hands.  I have to trust that regardless of the outcome, we made the right decision.  I have to let someone else serve the man I vowed to serve.
Faith is a word we use freely.  We encourage people to “keep the Faith,” to “have faith,” or to be faithful to someone or something.  When things seem a little difficult, we say our faith is weak or that we need to seek a deeper faith.  We sing songs “Living by Faith.”  At this time when everything is completely out of my hands– when I am sitting alone in a room full of others who are also alone in this crowded room, I have to say, faith is a lot easier to speak of than it is to live.
Trust seems to be another level of faith.  It’s one thing to put your faith in someone, but somehow trust seems to mean that you have added to that faith, a piece of you.  Faith is about the other person… trust is about you too.  I do trust this doctor.  I know that he has the experience and skills to do an excellent job.  I trust the Lord to take good care of my husband– after all, He loves Kevin much more than I ever could.  Trust in silence–in waiting– is much harder than simple trust.  It’s easy to trust these people to take my husband away to fix him.  It’s harder to trust when I am alone and wondering how things are going.
Waiting.  There are fewer of us waiting now.  For half the room, the wait is over.  Faith has been “seen” so to speak.  Their trust has been proven valid.  They’re reunited and are now able to DO something.
And still I wait.  Until my turn.  I need to remember this the next time that cell phone rings and my husband asks me to empty his urine bottles.  Doing something is oh, so much better than waiting.

Lesson #50232 from the Hospital

Who you were as a child isn’t all that different from who you are as an adult.  I’m seeing it in so many ways.  Today, I found a few more.
When I was younger, I used to love going to Grandma’s for a weekend, week, couple of weeks.  We played Crow’s Foot (dominoes), aggravation, Old Maid, Go Fish, and the piano.  We walked to Bashas to get milk or some other staple, and then maybe around the block for some extra exercise.  At home, she’d reheat beans, cornbread, and chicken.  She always had great food.  However, one thing I never grew out of– coloring.  Within a few hours of arriving, I’d grab my purse, walk down the street, past the Christian Emporium, to 7th Avenue.  I’d cross Osborn, dream about what a magical place the China Doll must be, and then mosey on over to Skaggs.  Skaggs was its own wonderful place for me.  Most kids don’t really get excited about a basic drug store, but I loved it.  There was a nice aisle of office supplies.  I always had a weak spot for office supplies.  There was also a small section of school type supplies and coloring books.  That was what I went for.  I’d grab a box of 64 crayons, and pick out a new coloring book.  Why am I remembering the Mother Goose one right now?  Then, I’d go back to Grandma’s and sit at her kitchen table.  I’d color.  I didn’t color much at home, but I always colored at Grandma’s.  LOVED it.  I usually managed to fill the book.  It was relaxing, soothing.
Guess what I did today?  After sitting in an uncomfortable chair for several days, today I decided I needed something else.  So, at lunchtime, I moseyed on over to Michael’s.  I’d already purchased a couple of stamps, but I bought a couple more.  I also bought a Versafine stamp pad and a package of pre-cut card stock.  Then came the big decision.  Watercolor pencils or regular.  I own a huge set of regular.  I went for watercolor.  Then, on the way out, I saw the Martha Stewart ones I started with a year or so ago.  So, I bought them.  Figured I could give them to Challice.  Back at the hospital, I stamped up some images and started coloring.  It’s amazing how old habits die hard.
It got me thinking.  You know, when I was a kid, it was easy to think of how much worse things could be.  I’d get in trouble for something I didn’t do and think, “Yeah, well, you could get in trouble for something you did do.  That’d be worse.  At least you know you didn’t do anything wrong.”  Old habits die hard, don’t they?  Monday, I realized that as hard as it was to see my husband hurting, he could be dying.
And, you know, as a kid, I rarely if ever stepped out of my comfort zone.  I moved– often.  It hardens you a little.  It’s difficult to risk opening yourself up to someone when you don’t expect to be there for long– despite your hope that THIS time you’ll stay.  Maybe this time.  When someone made overtures to me, I accepted and embraced them.  I was a loyal friend for as long as someone wanted to be my friend.  If that changed, I was ok with it.  After all, I might be going.  It made me realize something I missed last night with my friend “Joey.”  Had he turned to me, had he shown any sign of reaching out even in the slightest– met my eyes or winced (who could really smile at a time like that), I would have said something.  I would have asked if he was ok.  I would have been the encouraging person I know I can be but rarely am.  You see, I’m still that same little girl under this much bigger (oh, yes, MUCH bigger) exterior.
My husband has been grateful for me being there all this time (like where else would I be???).  No more than a couple of hours pass without him saying so.  He’s always been appreciative that way.  Today, he gave me an unusual compliment.  He said, “You’re good at sitting.”  I laughed.  Actually, I howled.  It was like the compliment I got in the eighth grade.  Kathleen Lunde wrote in my autograph book, “The thing  I like about you is how you’re always the same.”  To my thirteen year old heart, it was like saying, “I just love how boring you are.”  Mom showed me the compliment it truly was, but it still felt a bit… um… weak.  Today’s compliment felt like that.  “You’re really good at doing nothing.”
Of course, that’s not what he meant.  He added to that statement, “You’re good at just being here with me.  You don’t get impatient, you’re always upbeat, you don’t look bored or miserable.”  Yeah.  that.  I’m not thrilling, but apparently, I know how to let someone know that I care without doing or saying much.   Come to think of it, I was that way when I was a kid.  I was best at that kind of comfort.
Isn’t it interesting?  We don’t always change that much, do we?  Today, I’m ok with that.